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Norm On Cricket

Kanhai 'The Berbician Blaster

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

When Australia toured the West Indies in 1955 they were particularly impressed by the batting of the young Guianese wicketkeeper, Rohan Kanhai. This hitherto unknown player had blasted the great Australian fast bowler Keith Miller and his partners to all parts of Bourda, scoring 154.

He made a rather ordinary Test debut in England in 1957, and had another ordinary series against Pakistan in the Caribbean. It was in his next season, however, on the West Indies tour to India in 1959, that Kanhai bursted forth.

The famous Indian leg spinner Gupte was spinning webs around the West Indians, taking 16 wickets in the first 2 Tests, including Kanhai's 3 times. In the second innings of the second Test, while walking back to the pavilion after having just dismissed Kanhai, Gupte walked over to the young West Indian and said, 'You are my bunny.”

The next time the two met, in the first innings of the third Test, at Eden Gardens in Calcutta, Kanhai showed that he was truly West Indian. Gupte's taunt must have hurt his West Indian pride, for he tore into the Indian attack with such ferocity that by the end of the first day's play he was 203 not out â€' his first Test century. He carried on next day to 256, which remained the highest Test by anyone in India until VVS Laxman made 281 recently.

Gupte's spirit was broken and the West Indies won the series handsomely. On the following tour, to Pakistan, Kanhai and his fellow West Indians couldn't cope with the matted wickets, and the Master of the Mat, Fazal Mahmood. They lost the first two Tests, but Kanhai hit a brilliant 217 in the third, which West Indies won by an innings.

A fairly good series for Kanhai followed in 1960, against England in the Caribbean. By the time the West Indies were ready to tour Australia at the end of 1960, however, Kanhai's reputation had preceded him, because of his exploits in the subcontinent, where Australians generally fared poorly, and because Keith Miller spoke highly of him at every opportunity.

Kanhai, and the West Indies, team didn't disappoint the Australians. The first Test was tied, Australia won the second by 7 wickets, and West Indies won the third by 222 runs. Kanhai hit a century in each innings to draw the fourth, setting up the most exciting fifth Test ever played in Test cricket. Australia barely won that by 2 wickets and a lot of luck, but West Indies had won the hearts of Australia. Over a 100,000 Australian fans lined the streets of Melbourne to bid Worrell's famous West Indians goodbye.

In England in 1963 Kanhai was the main batting attraction and Sobers the bowler everyone wanted to see. Several brilliant innings by Kanhai and Sobers were well received by the English fans and West Indies won the series. Kanhai continued to please fans everywhere, but in 1969 he had a poor tour of Australia, and asked to be rested. He returned in 1971, playing for the World XI against Australia in 1971/72, where he hit a couple of brilliant centuries against a rampant Lillee and Massie. After returning to Test cricket however, he soon lost his form and asked to be rested again.

By 1973, with West Indies cricket in serious decline, Kanhai was recalled to the Test team as captain. Carefully marshalling his fast bowlers Boyce and Julien, he led West Indies to a spirit-reviving series win in England. Kanhai retired from Test cricket the following year, with the West Indies on the rise. He appeared for the West Indies in the inaugural World Cup, and showed he was still capable of competing with the best.

In addition to his long Test career Kanhai played regularly for Guyana and English county Warwickshire. He also represented Western Australia and Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield. In 1974 he put on 465 with John Jameson for Warwickshire, the highest second wicket stand in first class cricket for a long time.

In 1975 Kanhai accepted an invitation by the Black South African cricket board to coach Black kids in South Africa, which caused him to fall out of favor with the Guyana government, which was strongly anti-apartheid. In a time when the Guyana government showered many honors on Fredericks and Lloyd, Kanhai got no award whatsoever. Interestingly, he never got an award from the present government either, even though he is now employed (part time) by the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation as a coach in his native Berbice.

Kanhai, however, was rewarded for his valuable contributions to West Indies cricket by other West Indian territories, notably Jamaica. He coached the Jamaican team with distinction for several seasons in the late 80's and early 90's. For this, and his contribution to West Indies cricket, he received Jamaica's second highest national award.

As coach and manager of the West Indies team in the early 90's he was credited with the development of Brian Lara's ability to play long innings. He, however, complained about disciplinary problems among the West Indian players, and relinquished the job.

Kanhai still appears at cricket grounds in the Caribbean, and always has that pleasant air about him. No wonder, for this great player of yesteryear always enjoyed his game, and always shared that joy with spectators everywhere in the world. Who else but a player that enjoys his game thoroughly would hook a bouncer with such relish that he often ended up on his posterior after playing the shot?

-- Norm

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Roy Fredericks - bowler's nemesis!

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Few batsmen really epitomised the best in West Indian batting as did Roy Clinton Fredericks. So pulverising was his batting that many an opening bowler simply refused to bowl at him, knowing how bad that would be for their confidence and bowling figures.

Born in Blairmont, in West Bank Berbice, Freddo first represented Guyana at table tennis. As a teenager, he represented Guyana at the Annual Caribbean Table Tennis Championships, where he impressed tremendously with his quick reflexes and good eye.

Fredericks made his cricket debut for Guyana in the Shell Shield in the mid 60's, when he was unexpectedly asked to step in for the regular opener Romain Etwaroo, who was injured on the eve of the match. He quickly established himself with a fighting half century, and in two years he was touring with the West Indies. (This was rather quick in those days.)

Frederick's success was rather moderate in his early Test career. He scored several 50's, but couldn't get a century, until New Zealand toured the West Indies in 1972. He hit 163, and helped Rowe get to that famous 214 on his Test debut. His batting improved tremendously after this. In a Shell Shield match against Jamaica, at Sabin Park, Fredericks hit 22 runs off the very first over, bowled by Jamaica's West Indies fast bowler Uton Dowe.

His most famous innings, however, was his 169 against Australia, in Perth, 1976. It was the 2nd Test of the series, and the other opener, Gordon Greenidge, had been dropped because he scored a double duck in the 1st Test. In addition, none of the other batsmen were willing to open the batting with Fredericks, for fear of Lillee and Thomson, Australia's red hot fast bowlers. Finally, Bernard Julien decided to do it, after only Lance Gibbs was willing to step forward.

The second ball of the innings, from Thomson, was duly dispatched for a big six into the stands by Fredericks and another driven straight back past the bowler to the fence. In 90 odd minutes before lunch (Holding had polished off the Australian tail earlier in the morning, this being the 2nd day), Fredericks and Julien hit the Aussie attacks to all parts of the ground, as well as out of it, scoring over a 120 runs. Julien, however, was struck on his hand and had his finger fractured just before lunch.

After lunch, the boundaries flowed unchecked from Fredericks' bat. Ian Chappell, the Aussie captain, hastily withdrew Lillee and Thomson, and kept them hidden most of the time. The Aussie spinners were tried and got the same treatment. Shortly before tea, Frederick, set to join a very small band of players to score a 100 runs in a session, was finally dismissed, edging to slip. The bewildered Aussie team, and the entire pavilion, loudly cheered Fredericks on his way back in, knowing fully well that they had just witnessed one of the very best Test innings of all time.

The euphoria of Fredericks' magnificent innings carried the West Indies to their only Test win of that series. Fredericks played several fine Test innings after that, but he surprisingly retired from Test and 1st class cricket in 1980, to become Minister of Sports in Guyana. Politics must not have been to his liking though, as he returned to cricket 3 years later, and scored 2 centuries for Guyana, including 217 in his final game for Guyana.

Fredricks also played for Glamorgan in the 70's, where he still holds several batting records. He was also an occasional, but accomplished left arm wrist spinner, who took many wickets at both the first class and Test levels.

By the end of his cricket career Fredericks started to suffer from a throat problem, that he soon discovered was cancer. To keep fit Fredericks played squash regularly, to the point where he could have represented Guyana. His cancer went into remission, and Fredericks lived a normal life until 2000, when the cancer returned and took his life. One of cricket's finest sons had passed away at age 53.

Thanks for those great innings, Freddo!


Can West In dies improve?

Sunday, April 28, 2002

When WI was beaten in the 2nd Test, the team they played was probably their best at the time, or at least close to their best.

One may argue that Jacobs should have played for Murray, but Murray's keeping in the 2nd Test was not bad. (His batting was simply terrible though.) Stuart Williams has not lived up to expectations, but at least he was much better than Ganga. Gayle continues to be moderately successful, but there is no one to replace him.

Sarwan put in a good effort, but is still not fulfilling his potential. Lara has been way below his best (but, even so, was still better than most!). Hooper still disappoints somewhat, but less so than before. Chanders seems to be on his way up again.

Dillon and Cuffy have been consistently good, but not really threatening, or devastating. Sanford has been just as good as Dillon and Cuffy, but he is still essentially unproven. Black, though bowling better than usual, is still not fit enough. Poor Nags got hurt in a road accident.

All in all, one can say that the WI batsmen all significantly underperformed in the 2nd Test, and that there is some chance of improvement here. It might be wise to bring in Wavell Hinds to open with Gayle, but it might not be a bad idea to give Williams another chance - just to put his case to rest finally.

The bowling, however, seems to be a different story.

Unless Sanford bowls even better than he has been doing already, and unless Darren Powell performs well and gets added to the bowling attack, it seems that the WI bowling is already at its best and cannot get better. One wonders too why wasn't Tino Best included in the Busta XI. Surely the selectors have seen more than enough of Collins already.

Still though, it is hard to see how the present WI bowling attack will dispose of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman quickly enough to win a Test match. We can only hope that fate and Sanford will conspire to pull off the unlikely on a fast and bouncy wicket at Kensington Oval.

Otherwise, we will just have to swallow our pride again, schuups we teeth, and hope fah de bess!


Norm Gonsalves is a member of WGML and is a guest feature writer on Guyana Outpost. Keep checking this page for Norm's insights into this fascinating sport.
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